MPC Members Third PDI Competition

MPC Club Third PDI Competition, 2016

For the Molesey Photographic club members third PDI competition in April 2016, I submitted three very different images. The judge was Martin Faiers of the Old Coulsdon Camera Club

Where’s Gaudi?

Where's Gaudi? MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 10 out of 10
Where’s Gaudi? MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 10 out of 10

The inspiration for the title of this colourful image taken at the Gaudi Park in Barcelona, came from the Where’s Wally series. This is one of those amazingly popular tourist spots in Barcelona. I was there for a short break and took many photographs during my visit. See my Barcelona 2013 Flickr album for more pictures.

As you can probably tell by the judge’s maximum score, Martin was pretty impressed by this image. He didn’t think much of it on first inspection, but the more he looked at it, the more it grew on him.

He particularly liked the people at the top of the image and the way the two at the bottom hold your attention then how the others just going about their business lead your eye through the image.

I agree and personally love the variety of colour and the way the textures, shapes and people all interact to make an arresting image.

about the Photograph

Shot on my Canon 7D with my old EF28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 USM lens, this image was taken fully wide with a focal length of 28mm to capture as much of the scene as possible.

I don’t have many photographs with this lens at it’s a really cheap one I bought on Ebay to go on my Canon EOS 620 35mm film camera. The weekend before this trip to Barcelona, I exclusively used this combination on a mate’s stag do in Valencia.

The shutter speed was 1/320 sec as it was very bright, the aperture was f/7.1 to get as much depth as possible and the ISO 100 for maximum image quality. Look close and you can see how the corners are a little soft. The depth of field starts just after the first row of people and reaches all the way to the back!

Image processing was limited to an increase in exposure, lifting the shadows to bring out more detail and a bit of cropping.

Bench Corner

Bench Corner, MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 8 out of 10
Bench Corner, MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 8 out of 10

These amazing benches can be found at RHS Wisley, close to the rose gardens. I have a thing about photographing benches in landscape scenes and this image is even stronger with the different shapes and textures.

Scoring 8 out of 10, Martin commented on the nice shapes, different textures and the softness of the tall grass behind the benches. He felt that the image was a little empty and wasn’t keen on the foreground as he said it lacks interest.

I tend to agree with the judge’s comments although I would add that I have actually left the lower part of the image uncluttered as I wanted to lead the viewer’s eye from the bottom left corner up to the benches and grass.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH

This is another image shot on the Canon 7D, my primary camera since April 2013. This photograph was taken in September in 2014 with my favourite lens, the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

The normal focal length of 50mm and image stabilisation allowed me to hand hold the camera and use a 1/80th shutter speed and ISO 125. An aperture of f/9.0 meant I could get everything in focus and I crouched down to fill the frame with the tall grass.

I used Lightroom to convert this image to monochrome because I felt that whilst colour added nothing to the image, in black and white it’s much easier to see the shapes and texture. The lack of colour also adds to the simplicity of the image, something I’m always trying to achieve with my compositions!

How to Enjoy the Canal in Summertime

How to Enjoy the Canal in Summertime, MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 8 out of 10
How to Enjoy the Canal in Summertime, MPC 2016 Third PDI Competition, 8 out of 10

This was taken in June, 2013 on my 40th birthday to The Dundas Arms in Kintbury. We were staying at this lovely location and went for a long afternoon walk along the Kennet and Avon canal.

Scoring another 8 out of 10, Martin liked the contrast in colour between the dog walker and the rest of the scene. He liked the way the boat and the walker are in roughly the same plane of focus and the dappled lighting.

Whilst the judge’s comments were mostly positive, he wasn’t so keen on the soft focus foreground and found it quite off putting. I agree with the judge’s comments to a point, although I personally feel the soft foreground helps lead the eye from the bottom left of the image in to the picture down the path.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH

The shallow depth of field provided by f/4.0 is quite apparent in this image and is probably the photograph’s main weakness.

The effect is compounded by the maximum zoom to a focal length of 105mm that the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens provides. This focal length compresses the foreground and background bringing the subjects closer to the viewer.

Depth of field is one the things I’ve struggled with the most. It is partly out of a fear of reducing image quality through camera shake. Maximum image quality can be achieved by choosing a wide aperture (small f number). This allows a faster shutter speed whilst keeping the ISO low.

Another worry I used to have was the potential effects of Diffraction Limited Aperture where smaller apertures (higher f numbers) on digital cameras can affect sharpness. Bryan has a great article on The Digital Picture that explains it in more detail.

Now I don’t worry about things like that as I’ve learnt that softness from out of focus elements in the image can have a more detrimental affect on image composition than the reduced image quality from a higher ISO and that pixel level sharpness only really matters with massive prints.

In landscape photography you want as much detail and depth of field as you can get. The effect of sensor noise from a higher ISO can be reduced in post production. You cant put back detail that isn’t there!

Molesey Photographic Club Membership

Molesey Photographic Club

I have joined a friendly local photography club based in Molesey in Surrey, the MPC.

MPC Logo and Website Header
MPC Logo and Website Header

The club runs a mixture of projected digital image (PDI) and print competitions throughout the year. This is a great opportunity to finally get some valuable feedback on my images and a good reason to start producing prints of my work.

Ladybird in Grass MPC 2016 Third Print Club Competition
Ladybird in Grass, MPC 2016 Third Print Competition, 10 out of 10

The club has regular presentations by experienced and professional photographers and has members of all different skill levels and walks of life.

Hopefully, this interaction with other photographers combined with the feed back from the competitions will provide me with inspiration for future photography projects!

Tremendous Tulip MPC 2016 Third Print Club Competition
Tremendous Tulip, MPC 2016 Third Print Competition, 9 out of 10

The club’s meetings run from September till June. As I have joined the quite late the year I can only enter the last print and PDI competitions. All new members start at Club Level and are assessed at the end of the year after all the competitions.

I am hopeful that the quality of the few images I will have been able to submit will show that I am worthy of the next level, the Intermediary Class.

London at Night, MPC 2016 Third Print Club Competition
London at Night, MPC 2016 Third Print Competition, 8 out of 10

My first ever print competition went very well as you will see from the images in this post. I scored 10, 9 and 8!

The club also has an annual exhibition where each member can contribute ten prints and fifteen digital images, the exhibition will be running between the 6 th and 11 th of June 2016 at the East Molesey Methodist Church

However, next up is the final digital image competition. I will post a follow up when I have selected the images but I am hopeful that I will do equally as well!

April, it’s time for gardens!

April, 2016

It’s April and we can start enjoying our gardens! British summertime is upon us, the days are getting longer and evenings lighter. Crocus and other spring flowers have added a bit of colour to our gardens but it’s the professional gardeners that really bring a bit of magic to our days.

2016 Calendar April, Cliveden Gardens
April – Cliveden Hedge Garden Painting

At National Trust Cliveden, they have a huge lawn between the house and the river Thames. This garden is immaculately kept but it’s stand out feature is the low hedges in isometric shapes – it’s called a Parterre.

The original design was made in 1849 and the painting shows how it looked back in the day.

I have photographed the Parterre many times but on this visit I was lucky to be able to get a view from the terrace. Add the painting, a lovely day with some shadows and nice light and you have a recipe for a nice photograph that tells a story. Perfect!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • Standard Zoom Lens: Canon EF 24-105m f/4L IS USM

March, Spring is on it’s way

March, 2016

Spring is well and truly on it’s way, that’s why I love March so much.

After a pretty much flowerless winter, Daffodil numbers are at their height so I chose this Daffodil portrait photograph for the March page of my 2016 calender.

2016 Calendar March
March – Daffodil Star

This photograph was shot with my standard lens at the maximum focal length of 105mm with it’s widest aperture of F4.

To create this image I first had to get down low. Focussing on a daffodil that was close to the camera and ensuring that those in the background were far away enough with this angle of view, I could get this lovely blurred background.

You can see that there are more daffodils in the picture but they don’t interfere with the subject.

This photograph was taken on one of my many walks around RHS Wisley. Do you think this picture captures the spirit of spring? I certainly do!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • Standard Zoom Lens: Canon EF 24-105m f/4L IS USM

Stuart and Steph’s Wedding Day

March 2015

Stuart and Steph’s wedding was my first full wedding day commission. Stuart, a budding photographer, is one of my friends who used to work at Travelrepublic.

The couple were looking to save money but still hoped to get some nice photos with style, consistency and attention to detail – things you just cant get if you rely on more than one person taking photographs.

I offered to do the job out of the goodness of my heart… well I wanted the opportunity to build on my previous experience, Penny would get a nice day out and I would play an integral part of the most important day of Stuart’s life!

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Bride and Groom

Planning

Initially, the four of us had lunch so I could get a feel for the venue. Closer to the time Stu and I got together, planned out a timeline for the day and I made sure he explained the kinds of shots they wanted at each of the phases.

The big day

I was nervous about taking on the whole day as I would be breaking new territory but I was quietly confident that I could deliver what they wanted and more.

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Having a laugh

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Fussing over the bride

Taking pictures of the bride and her maids of honour getting ready was fun. The room was well lit and with my five way reflector (held by my beautiful assistant) and two flashes on stands I was able to get some really nice shots. Individual portraits and detail shots were taken with my telephoto and the rest with the 24-105.

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
The Register

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
The wedding rings

The ceremony however had very challenging lighting conditions. There was strong sunlight and the window in front of the couple created a massive light source yet the rest of the room was in relative shadow.

More powerful lighting equipment would have enabled me to balance the light but hey, sometimes we just have to work with what we have!

Once the ceremony was over, we moved off to a quieter spot for the official portrait shoot.

Brides Family
Bride’s family portrait

Since I don’t have expensive fast lenses, I had to get creative to isolate the subject from the background. Using my telephoto on one camera at a distance zoomed in with a wide aperture, I was able to create strongly blurred backgrounds as the bride and groom photo shows.

Of course I also needed to get closer for the group shots so with my 24-105 lens on another camera, physically moving closer and further, switching cameras each time, I was able to take both close up and group shots relatively quickly.

Sideways
Sideways

After the portraits, we moved back to the main party for the group shot. One of the hotel’s best rooms provided a little balcony that gave me a great point of view. With some prompting from me, I got the whole group lift their arms and ‘whoop’ whilst I fired off a burst of shots! Thanks to a continuous high speed shooting mode of 7 fps, I was able to produce this short video of the group!

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Balcony group shot

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Pouring the sparkles

Before moving on to the receiving line, I had a bit of time to capture some details and environmental shots.

Once there, it wasn’t easy to get good compositions since I didn’t always have a clear line of sight but I managed to achieve my goal of getting some great candid shots.

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Wedding selfie

For the wedding breakfast, I set up the second camera with a wide angle lens on a tripod in different positions around the room with a radio trigger. Remotely firing the camera gave me a chance to be a guest, have a drink and enjoy the lovely meal whilst still recording the event!

Brides Maids
Brides Maids

Wedding Breakfast
Wedding breakfast

After eating, I managed to photograph most of the guests by wandering from table to table shooting candid and posed individual and group portraits.

After the meal we enjoyed the speeches. I didn’t want to get in the way so there wasn’t much I could do. I mounted the telephoto lens on my camera and got a few candid portraits at 300 mm. My final duty was to photograph the momentous event of cutting the cake…

Best Man's Speech
The Best Man speech

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Cutting the cake

Whilst my job was officially over, I couldn’t help but take some photographs during the evening reception. I tried positioning the second flash in different positions around the room with varying success.

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Oh macarena!

Stuart and Steph's Wedding Day
Just married

It was a long day and by the end, I was absolutely exhausted but pleased with how the day had gone. Of course, I wouldn’t really know how successful I would be until I downloaded the 1600+ photos!

That’s a wrap!

As I’m sure you can imagine, it took a long time to work my way through all the photographs from the day. To let the couple know that I hadn’t forgotten about them, I placed this message on my Facebook timeline.

As I worked my way through the various stages of the day, I posted the best photographs to a private mini website under my Trickycoding domain.  It wasn’t until the end of May that I actually had finished all the editing. Steph and Stu came over for dinner in early June and I handed over a DVD of different crops and edits so they could compile their favourites into an album.

Wedding Music
Wedding Music

 Kit Bag

  • A Camera: Canon 7D
  • B Camera: Canon 50D
  • General Purpose: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
  • Telephoto Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
  • Ultra Wide: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
  • Flash: Two Canon 430EX II
  • Accessories: Giottos Tripod, Manfrotto Tripod, 5 way reflector and a Remote RF trigger

The February Calendar Photo

February, 2016

It’s time for a calendar photo again. I chose this photograph of a butterfly for February.

February
February – Asian Swallowtail

Gorgeous isn’t it?

Every year RHS Wisley has a butterfly exhibition in their Tropical Glass House. On this occasion I took my telephoto lens and with a bit of support from my mono pod captured this.

The tropical flowers in the background create lovely balls of bokeh colour and the red pom pom* flower placed just of centre is a great platform for this pretty butterfly.

I think what makes this photo work is the stem that comes in at an angle from the left side and with the butterfly on the flower there is a nice V shape.

I needed to boost the shadows and mid tones a bit in Lightroom but there is no cropping or other edits. I’m pretty pleased with the results. This is a perfect calendar photo!

* I have no idea what the flower is but it sure is pretty!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • Telephoto Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

Calendar photos for 2016

January, 2016

Happy new year! Like many, I have made a few new year’s resolutions. One of these is to post here more frequently. I’ve got a plan to make sure I do and it involves a calendar!

Cover
Perched Blue – Cover Photo

The annual event, Nathan’s calendar

Every year I produce a calender for my family and close friends so why not share the pictures month by month?

For January I chose this photo of a squirrel in our back garden taking a drink at the pond after raiding the bird feeders.

Calendar, January
A Little Drink at the Pond

Usually I try to use photographs taken in the same or at least close to the month of the calendar page, but this photo was actually taken in April. Every year I try to include a photograph that represents my home environment and since I didn’t actually take any decent photos that January I thought this shot would be perfect!

This was shot at ISO 400 to allow a shutter speed of 1/500 and aperture of F9 to keep as much in focus as possible. Even though this lens does have image stabilisation, the higher shutter speed ensured that if the Squirrel did move I wouldn’t get any blurring.

Its a tight crop since I wasn’t really close enough. I love the reflections, the colours of the flowers and little gnomes and the ripple in the water.

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • Telephoto Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

Family Favourite

October, 2014

My ex next door neighbours, the Williams, have a love for the black stuff.

Last year, Coca-Cola were doing specially labelled bottles with any name you wanted so Wil ordered a set for the family.

Coke Bottles

They wanted a picture of the bottles to go on the wall. The order of the names was the only requirement specified.

We were having some building work done at the time so I found a plank of wood that I could place between two ladders providing a level and colourful support. Finally, the set up was placed in front of a window for some natural light.

With some very careful measurements I got a nice even spacing between the bottles.

Coke Bottle Set up

The light coming from outside provided a back light creating some really nice highlights on the edges of the bottles. That back light also created a lovely golden tone from the bottle’s contents.

When you love photography as much as I do, there is no such thing as ‘just take a photo’!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • Macro Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro

Richard James Furniture

March 2015

Richard James is a local carpenter that designs, builds and installs bespoke furniture. You can find out more about him and his work on his website.

Richard James Furniture

Richard asked me to create some high resolution images of his work for his website. This is the first trip I went out on him with, we looked at two properties in the Weybridge area.

Property one – the town house

In one of the upstairs bedrooms at the first property, a lovely Victorian town house with high ceilings, James has built a full height wardrobe in a nice shaker style in a lovely light cream finish.

Weybridge bedroom wardrobe
Weybridge bedroom wardrobe

Weybridge bedroom wardrobe inside

For those photographs, I positioned my flash to my left and bounced it of a large white mattress that was standing against the wall, also behind me. Combined with the natural light from the window I was able to create a nice even light.

For the inside view of the wardrobe, I added two mobile phone camera LED lights pointing in to the far corner of each shelf away from the door. The extra lighting nicely lifted shadows and allowed me to really show off that cool hat!

Weybridge living room right sideboard
Weybridge living room right sideboard

Weybridge living room sideboards
Weybridge living room sideboards

In the living room Richard has also built a sideboard and shelving into each side of the chimney breast in the same shaker style as the wardrobe. It’s a clever use of space and really suited the room.

To take these photographs I used the ultra wide angle lens again. This time I also used the on camera flash in conjunction with the off camera flash to the left of the frame, pointing at the ceiling and back wall on the frontal picture.

Weybridge living room right sideboard detail
Weybridge living room left sideboard detail

The detailing on Richard’s work is exquisite – it’s so nice to see quality hand made work like this! I used the macro lens to capture this fine detail.

Property two – the contemporary cottage

At the next property Richard has made an entertainment unit and under stairs cupboard.

My ultra wide angle was necessary for all these shots. I also needed to get down low with the tripod to ensure that the verticals were… vertical!

Again, off camera flash bouncing off a wall helped balance the natural light from the large windows. Despite this, the lighting is still a bit uneven. A deflector would have probably helped here.

Oatlands lounge entertainment centre
Oatlands lounge entertainment centre

Oatlands lounge understair cupboard detail
Oatlands lounge understair cupboard detail

Oatlands lounge understair cupboards
Oatlands lounge understair cupboards

Upstairs in the spare bedroom Richard has built a wardrobe. The position of the bed somewhat limited photographic opportunities so I concentrated on the lines and angles to create strong compositions.

Oatlands bedroom wardrobe and drawers
Oatlands bedroom wardrobe and drawers

Oatlands bedroom wardrobe and drawers detail
Oatlands bedroom wardrobe and drawers detail

Again I bounced the flash but struggled to fill all the shadows. The key thing in all these photographs was to stop the light from the window overpowering my light inside the room.

I decided against switching on the lights as it would upset the colour balance and I felt natural light would best show the subtle colouring of the furniture!

Eventually, some of these photos will replace the old noisy iPhone snaps and Richard’s website will really do his creations justice!

Old website capture
Old website capture

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 7D
  • General Purpose: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
  • Macro Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
  • Ultra Wide: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5
  • Flash: Canon 430EX II

Columbus, a glorious floating home

June 2012

ApolloDuckThis was a nice little project, much more in my comfort zone. The brief was to take some nice photographs of Columbus, a beautiful barge, its mooring and garden. The boat would be sold on Apollo Duck.

My sister-in-law and her partner, Gerogina and Dicky, had acquired, decorated and furnished the boat, cleared the mooring, garden and built a lovely summer house.

Barge from opposite bank
Barge from opposite bank

Barge entrance
Barge entrance

It was a lovely plot, peaceful and quite. They had done a great job on the summer house and garden. My standard zoom lens was perfect for photographing the boat and site.

Byfleet Barge - _MG_6303
Summer house patio

Summer house and garden

The boat, previously just a basic boat with engine, was finished to a very high standard. There was a good size living space with an attached kitchen.

Barge kitchen
Barge kitchen

Barge living room
Barge living room

There were two bedrooms and a bathroom. My ultra wide angle zoom was necessary within this confined space.

Barge small bedroom
Barge small bedroom

Barge master bedroom
Barge master bedroom

A corridor ran down one side and was nicely lit by a large number of windows and port holes. My tripod gave me a nice stable base and allowed long shutter speeds to let the natural light come through.

Barge corridor
Barge corridor

Barge view
Barge view

The boat and site only took a few weeks to sell. No wonder, with such lovely photographs!

 Kit Bag

  • Camera: Canon 50D
  • General Purpose: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
  • Ultra Wide: Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5